A tasty dinner party idea featuring smoked salmon, white fish, trout, cheddar, gouda, manchego, feta and more!
Oh man guys, this was a yummy, yummy day. As one of our ongoing culinary adventures with friends D & Laura (remember our from scratch pastrami party?) we decided we should smoke some things we hadn’t before, so fish + cheese were up.
I’m sharing this get-together because A) it was delish and B) I hope that you might find some inspiration in trying out a little shin-dig like this as we just love, love, loved it! You don’t even have to cook anything if you don’t want to – all of this could be store-bought (and personalized!) and I think it would still be a big hit. I mean, how could you go wrong with a spread like this? 😀
So, the plan was to sample the cheeses as our appetizer since those would be done first, then smoke the fish – which of course I recommend doing since you don’t want your cheese to taste and smell like fish. Or do you?
Anyhow, as usual we went a little overboard with how much we smoked since we wanted to try a little bit of everything. Another reason we may have gone a little bonkers is because Dave had just bought this vacuum sealer machine thingie-ma-bob and he was stoked to use it so the the cheese would last a long time (and yes, we do recommend it).
We smoked sharp cheddar, white cheddar, mozzarella, feta, manchego and gouda. Yes, we did.
To smoke the cheese, you’ll do what’s called a cold smoke where the temperature in the smoker (or a grill can be used) doesn’t go over 90 degrees and you’re not creating any fire. To do this, you’ll need a pellet tray and some apple wood smoke pellets. In order to avoid any grill grate markings on the cheese, we’d suggest laying parchment paper down on the grate first, then placing the cheese on top of that.
Add the filled smoke tray right into the chamber with the cheese. Light one end of the pellets in the maze tray and ensure you see smoke start to form. Close the lid and let the cheese smoke for two hours.
Now, you’re supposed to store the cheese and let the smoke kind of settle in for two weeks before eating it. Well, we didn’t. Come on, you’ve gotta try it once it’s ready, right? So we did nibble on them day off smoking, but they definitely did get better with time.
I wish I could tell you which one was my favorite, but they were all really lovely in different ways. We did think that the white cheddar held the smokey flavor really well, but they were all pretty smashing.
Alright, time to move on to our next bit of the night. Before we go too deep here, please know that smoking fish in your smoker is going to make the whole darn thing pretty stinky, so it will require a decent deep clean afterwards. If you ask us, it’s totally worth it. Also, Dave found this great smoking shelf on Amazon that made it way easy to smoke a lot of small things at once (and will also help later on when I require him to make all the ribbies).
We chose little smelts, trout, salmon and white fish filets to smoke. Prior to smoking fish, you will want to do a quick and simple brine. Though – let me tell you – you don’t want to brine the smelt like we did, given their size is so small they sucked up all the salt and were basically inedible. 🙁 I’d stick to the trout, salmon and white fish (also the white fish was hands down our favorite, so don’t skip that one). We got about 8 lbs of fish – so feel free to mix and match according to your tastes. Slice these into manageable pieces prior to smoking so that they can all fit on the racks or grilling grates.
To make the brine, combine the following ingredients in an extra large pot or clean bucket.
3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 cups soy sauce
1/2 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Stir the ingredients together well, then place the filets into the brine, ensuring all are submerged. Brine this for an hour.
Heat your coals and add your wood pellets, which for this recipe Dave recommends using Alder wood, as it pairs with fish really nicely. Get the temperature to a steady 150 degrees and add the fish directly onto the shelf or grill surface. You really don’t want to use any parchment here as you want the air to be able to flow over all sides so that a glaze is created.
Cook at this low 150 temperature for the first two hours so that the fish really absorbs the smokey flavor. After the initial two hours turn the heat up to 200 degrees and cook until the fish internal temperature has reached 165 degrees.
Once the fishies are done, remove them from the smoker and let them cool to room temperature for serving. How scrumptious do these look!?
Alright, now for serving the dinner – we wanted to create a fun spread of things to nosh on that would go nicely with the fish as our main course. We just laid everything out around our kitchen island and dug right in! We layered fish and onions onto bread and crackers and just nibbled on everything. It was a casual and yummy little party.
Here’s the list of what we put out:
Cold Yellow Beet & Carrot Salad with Lemon Juice and Dill
Polish Gherkins in a Vinegar Brine (store-bought)
Pickled Red Onions
Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Green + Black Olives
Fresh French Baguette Slices
You can certainly mix and match any finger foods with the above and make it your own. This was really so fun to put together and fabulous to eat! Also – having leftover smoked fish for your morning bagel is pretty sweet.
I really hope you get some friends together and give this party a go!